'There was a shocking accident to a team of football players in America,'reported the Illustrated Police News, rather vaguely, in December 1894. 'A bus containing a loadful of them was run into by a train as they were driving over a level crossing; some were killed on the spot, two more have died since, and the cases of three others are regarded as hopeless.'
Further research reveals that the accident happened in Southbridge, Massachusetts, on 29 November 1894 - Thanksgiving. The Southbridge Purples YMCA team were on their way to their local field to play a Worcester Polytechnic XI when their omnibus was struck by a passenger train.
'The horses were on the tracks at the Central Street crossing,' reported a local paper. 'A sharp whistle from the locomotive, hidden by a corner, was the first warning to the sixteen occupants of the barge. Driver Chamberlain lashed his horses and the man on the seat by his side jumped. Both were too late. The engine struck the barge on the left side, between the wheels and tore along for 150 yards, crushing the barge and its living contents into a mass of broken splinters and of dead and dying humanity. The crowd on the football field could see the engine when it came to standstill, and rushed to the scene. Everything was done for the injured men, but little hopes of recovery are expressed for five of them.'
Charles Gauther and Joseph Cook were killed at the scene, and many others suffered terrible injures, with several of them not expected to survive.
Many more unusual stories from the world of Victorian football are featured in The Victorian Football Miscellany by Paul Brown.
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